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Tessa Tinney

Top 10 Questions to Ask When Your Brand Isn’t Working

My husband and I lived in New York City when we decided to buy a car to escape the hustle and bustle on the weekends. We were young and almost cool and wanted a manual transmission just to test our left calf muscles in city traffic. We researched cars for months before settling on a gray Mazda 3. Not extravagant, but fun and zippy and small enough to fit in tight spaces.

We loved this little car. And we kept it pristine, which isn’t easy to do in New York.

When we finally decided to move out of the city, we packed our tiny apartment into our tiny car and drove over the bridge to suburbia-land: trees and birds and grass and picket fences.

A few months later, our precious car started to act up. It shuddered at stoplights and dragged going up hills. We brought it to a mechanic for a diagnosis and he ran all of the usual tests, but couldn’t find a problem. He told us to try putting premium gas in it, changing the oil again in a month, getting another tune up. Nothing worked. Finally, we took it back to the mechanic and told him to look again and look harder.

A few days later he gave us his final diagnosis: a chipmunk. That’s right, a chipmunk had taken up residence in the engine block, seeking refuge from the winter cold.

Apparently, this kind of thing happens. Damn suburbs.

We evicted the rodent and the car was perfect again.

For the love of all things furry, why am I telling you this story? Because sometimes, we need to question everything and examine a problem from every angle to uncover what’s really going on. That’s as true for branding as it is for chipmunks and cars.

When CMOs come to Monaco Lange with a brand that’s not working, they often have their own initial diagnosis, which we certainly respect. But we always push for a deeper understanding of the problem so we can come up with better solutions. When examining a brand that’s not working, we ask hundreds of questions.

Here are my favorite 10:

  1. Do key audiences understand what the company promises?
  2. How does current messaging resonate with key audiences? (Do people care about it?)
  3. What’s clear and what’s confusing about the current brand?
  4. Does the existing messaging appeal to emotional and rational thinking? Is it weighted too heavily toward one?
  5. How is messaging currently fine-tuned for specific audiences?
  6. How does the language establish a brand personality? Is the personality in line with the vision and promise of the company, and its culture?
  7. Can people articulate the company’s role in the world?
  8. Which feeling do people associate with the company’s promise, and what color represents that feeling?
  9. Both in design and concept, is the logo in line with the future vision of the company?
  10. How does the visual lexicon communicate the brand story? Which elements are working well to communicate the company’s personality and which aren’t?

The moral of my story? Never assume, always question, and consider chipmunks. They love heat and can fit into crazy tight spaces.